It is a suburb located about 32 kilometers (20 miles) east of Phoenix in the East Valley section of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area.
As of March 2020, the population of Mesa is about 520,000 people. Mesa is the largest suburban city by population in the United States, the 3rd largest city in Arizona after Phoenix and Tucson, the 35th largest city overall in the US, and the largest city that is not a county seat.
The city covers a total area of 360 square kilometers (139 square miles).
The average altitude is 378 metres (1,240 feet) above sea level.
The history of Mesa dates back at least 2,000 years to the arrival of the Hohokam people.
The Hohokam, whose name means “All Used Up” or “The Departed Ones”, built the original canal system. The canals were the largest and most sophisticated in the prehistoric New World. Some were up to 27 meters (90 feet) wide and 3 meters (10 feet) deep at their head gates, extending for as far as 26 km16 miles (26 km) across the desert. By A.D. 1100 water could be delivered to an area over 44,500 hectares (110,000 acres), transforming the Sonoran Desert into an agricultural oasis. By A.D. 1450, the Hohokam had constructed hundreds of miles of canals many of which are still in use today.
After the disappearance of the Hohokam and before the arrival of the early settlers little is known, as explorers did not venture into this area.
Mesa was founded in 1878 by Mormons who used ancient Hohokam canals for irrigation. Laid out on a grid plan with 40-metre (130-feet)-wide streets, the community became the focus of an agricultural and fruit-growing region, developed from a Salt River reclamation project.
Dr. A. J. Chandler, who would later go on to found the city of Chandler, worked on widening the Mesa Canal in 1895 to allow for enough flow to build a power plant. In 1917, the city of Mesa purchased this utility company.
By 1940, Mesa had achieved its standing as the 3d largest city in Arizona, boasting 7,000 inhabitants.
With the opening of Falcon Field (airport) and Williams Field (Air Force Base) in the early 1940s, more military personnel began to move into the Mesa area. With the advent of air conditioning and the rise of tourism, population growth exploded in Mesa as well as the rest of the Phoenix area.
Industry — especially early aerospace companies — grew in the 1950s and 1960s.
Today, Mesa is a vibrant and dynamic town that is home to numerous higher education facilities including the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University.
The Mesa Arts Center is a performing and visual arts complex in downtown Mesa, Arizona. At more than 20,000 square meters (210,000 square feet) square feet, the $95 million facility, completed in 2005, is the largest comprehensive arts campus in the state.
The Arizona Museum of Natural History is located in Mesa. It exhibits the natural and cultural history of the Southwestern United States. The museum was founded as a small museum in Mesa City Hall in 1977 with a small collection of Arizona artifacts. Today, the museum containing a collection of about 60,000 objects of natural history, anthropology, history & art, with approximately 10,000 historic photographs.
Golfland-Sunsplash is a series of water parks and family amusement centers in Mesa. The park is separated into two separate parks. Golfland operates year-round and features three miniature golf courses, an arcade, a pizza restaurant, a go-cart track, and bumper boats. Sunsplash operates in the summer and features 29 water-based attractions. The park opened in 1983 and the water park opened in 1986.
Organ Stop Pizza is a restaurant in Mesa. Its primary attraction is as the home of what it says is the largest Wurlitzer theater organ in the world. Powered by three turbine blowers (with a fourth as a standby) it has more than 5,500 pipes. The original organ was built for the Denver Theater and was installed in 1927. It saw service there until the 1930s. Rebuilt in 1975, including pieces from other Wurlitzers, it eventually ended up as a 78 rank organ.
The Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum, a.k.a. Airbase Arizona Aircraft Museum, was established in 1978, in Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona. It is the 10th unit of the Commemorative Air Force and the home of one of the largest Commemorative Air Force units in the world. On exhibit are World War II artifacts, helicopters and classic American and foreign combat planes, many of which are the last remaining warbirds of their kinds.
The aviation industry gives Mesa its wings today, with weather conditions that are near-perfect for training and testing every month of the year.
Mesa is also home to numerous championship golf courses, including the original course in town, Mesa Country Club.